If you’re like most moms, you feel guilty for just about everything. Whether it’s something you did, didn’t do, or didn’t do enough of, it can seem that there’s always something to feel ashamed about
Experts say part of these feelings come from a desire to be the so-called “perfect” mom. And when we can’t measure up, we think we’ve failed.
Many moms also mistakenly believe that the more guilty they feel, the more they love their kids. Throw social media into the mix with moms posting pictures of their genius kids or gourmet meals they’ve made and you’re bound to feel that you don’t measure up.
The reality however, is that guilt serves no purpose and will only make you feel worse. So let go of the guilt once and for all by starting with these guilt-inducers.
Dropping your child off at daycare, missing out on milestones or special school events can make your heart sink. Yet 40 percent of households with children under age18 are made up of mothers who are either the only or the primary source of income, according to Pew Research Center analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
“The notion of the stay-at-home is a fantasy in the collective minds of Americans,” said Emma Johnson, an award-winning business journalist, founder of WealthySingleMommy.com and host of the “Like a Mother” podcast.
Johnson said not only do most moms need to work, but partners can become unemployed, get sick or die, not to mention that just two years of not working makes it hard to re-enter the workforce.
“It doesn’t make sense from a financial risk-taking standpoint to only rely on one income source,” she said.
And studies show that children raised by working moms actually fair better. In fact, a survey out of Harvard found that women whose moms worked are more likely to have jobs themselves, hold supervisory roles and earn higher wages than women who are raised by full time, stay-at-home moms. Research also shows that working mothers have happier marriages and that they themselves are happier.
Although you’ll always miss your children while you work, remind yourself of the value of your career and that it’s what is best for your kids.
Nearly 80 percent of new moms start out breastfeeding but by 12 months only 27 percent still do, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“You have to look at this as a societal issue…the fact that we’re promoting ‘breast is best’ in an environment where there is such an utter lack of support for American women to be able to successfully breastfeed their babies,” said Jennifer Grayson, a Los Angeles-based journalist and author of, “Unlatched: The Evolution of Breastfeeding and the Making of a Controversy.”
For starters, with a lack of paid or even unpaid maternity leave, continuing to breastfeed after returning to work can be challenging for some moms. There’s also a lack of support from the medical community, especially for moms who don’t have access to lactation consultants.
“When a woman runs into a breastfeeding problem, by and large she’s given a pat on the back and a can of formula,” Grayson said.
Not only are moms made to feel guilty for not breastfeeding or not breastfeeding long enough, they’re also criticized for extended breastfeeding or breastfeeding in public.
Regardless of how long you decide to breastfeed, feel good about what you are able to do for your baby and realize that it is the best choice for you and your family.
You know that yelling at your kids isn’t good for them, but no matter how hard you try, sometimes you lose your patience.
Take heed and remember that you’re only human; you’re allowed to make mistakes and it’s unrealistic to expect that you should be a calm mom all the time.
If you find yourself frequently yelling, however, chances are that you’re not nurturing yourself or there’s an underlying issue, like depression.
“If we’re taking care of ourselves and we’re calmer and we’re able to learn how to respond instead of react, we won’t yell so often,” said Cara Maksimow, a licensed clinical social worker in Summit, New Jersey. and author of “Lose That Mommy Guilt: Tales and Tips From an Imperfect Mom.”
4. Not playing enough with your kids
In 2011, moms spent an average of 14 hours a week caring for their kids, up from 10 hours in 1965, according to a study by the Pew Research Center. Yet the same study found that 23 percent of moms say they’re not with their children enough.
When it comes to spending time with your kids, research shows that quality trumps quantity. In fact, a study in the Journal of Marriage and Family found that the amount of time children between 3 and 11 years old spend with their mothers had no impact on their behavior, emotional well-being or academics.
Allowing your child free time to explore, use her imagination and entertain herself is good for her development.
“We don’t have to engage with our kids every second of every day,” Maksimow said. “A little boredom is not bad.”
5. Using digital devices as a babysitter
Your toddler knows how to unlock your smartphone, use learning apps on the iPad and zones out in front of the TV more often than you care to admit. You already know that too much screen time isn’t good for your child’s development, but you’re not a bad mom if sitting her in front of the TV for 30 minutes means you can cook dinner or sneak in a workout.
6. Feeding kids not-so-healthy food
If chicken nuggets and boxed macaroni and cheese are dinnertime staples because they’re easy or getting your kids to eat vegetables seems like a losing battle, it’s easy to blame yourself.
As long as you’re doing your best to offer healthy fare and encourage your children to eat healthy food most of the time, then cut yourself some slack.
“We do what we feel is right by our children the very best way we can manage and we should feel wonderful about that,” said Dr. Shoshana Bennett, a clinical psychologist and perinatal specialist in Orange County, Calif. and author of “Postpartum Depression for Dummies.”
7. Date nights and “me time”
It’s common for moms to think their lives must revolve around their children, but if you really want to be a good mom, you need to take time to nurture your relationship with your partner and you need time for yourself. Not only is it important for your own happiness and emotional well-being, but you’re modeling for your children how to find balance when they’re adults.
Do your best to carve out time every week when you’re off duty and someone else watches your child.
“Selfishness means you are doing something at someone else’s expense,” Bennett said.
“What we are talking about is the most responsible, loving thing you could be doing for your children and that is to replenish and nurture yourself on a regular basis.”
When it comes to mom guilt, a good rule of thumb is: Let it go.
“We do the best we can and it’s not about perfection,” Bennett said. “It’s not about stressing over every little detail because that takes the joy out of life.”
Julie Revelant is a health journalist and a consultant who provides content marketing and copywriting services for the healthcare industry. She's also a mom of two. Learn more about Julie at revelantwriting.com.